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Ashleen Louise D'Orsay

July 17, 1994 - January 12, 2021

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Sydney

We, the family of Ashleen Louise D’Orsay, regret to announce her passing on Tuesday, January 12, 2021, in ICU at the Cape Breton Regional Hospital, Sydney.

Born July 17, 1994, in Halifax, she was the daughter of Colleen D’Orsay (David Fitzgerald), Coxheath and George (Jaime) Howie, Lower Sackville.  

“Oh I am a cat, that likes to gallop about doing good,” this poem by Stevie Smith (1972) was one of Ashleen’s favourties. She would giggle and laugh with her sister, Mairi, as her father and Jaime would read to them from their favourite book of poems. Creative, quirky, and a lover of all things different and kind, Ashleen adored thinking about words, concepts and the universe from abstract, funky angles. Never concerned with fitting in, she always delighted in showing up as her authentic self instead. She loved noticing differences and commonalities and was kind to everyone, without exception. She was amazing at making a person feel truly special, just for being themselves. Ashleen always took the time and find a reason to compliment people, even ones she had just met.  She was selfless in that way, wanting everyone in the room to feel special, listened to, and included. She would send her friends songs that made her think of them and always did her best to speak positively about others. We could learn a lot from Ashleen about how to make others feel welcomed and loved. She would always say, “make good choices,” whenever she was saying goodbye to friends. Never would she leave our family home without saying, “I love you”. This was the Ashleen we all knew. Some parts of her were readily apparent, always there and available regardless of her illness. Other parts shone in glimmers, as she fought and struggled against the impacts and effects of her illnesses. In the end, she was often confused and in need of help. Help that was hard for her to access, as she often felt judged as “less than,” by overworked professionals attempting to function under the excessive strains and pressures of our healthcare system.  As a result, it was difficult to get Ashleen to follow-through with emergency medical care. She would often phone crying and felt dismissed, something her family experienceda s well.  As a result, Ashleen wanted to get better to help add her voice to the call for change within our mental health and addiction services. Inspired by an opinion piece written by an ER doctor in the paper decrying those with addictions, Ashleen wanted to go to school to help develop a program to combat prejudice and unconscious bias held by those with privilege and in positions of power. In Gaelic, Ashleen’s name means “vision or dream.”  Our dream for her now is to carry out this work in her name and welcome support in doing so.

Besides her parents, Ashleen is survived by her sisters, Mairi (Craysyn) Trottier, Cole Harbour and Shayle Fitzgerald, Coxheath; and brother, Donald J. C. Marshall, Coxheath. She is also survived by her paternal grandmothers, Nancy Routledge and Anne Marie Conrad and many aunts, uncles, and cousins on her father’s side.  She is survived by her maternal grandparents, John and Linda D’Orsay, Coxheath; her uncles, Craig (Heather), Montreal and Clayton (Amy) D’Orsay and special cousin, Elania, Howie Centre, all of whom often lived in the same household in which she was raised with her. 

Ashleen was predeceased by her two paternal grandfathers, James Routledge, Glace Bay, George (Rick) Howie, and her step-father, Donald Marshall Jr., Membertou.

Special thanks to Dr. Carol Critchley, who loved and cared for her since before her birth.  Special thanks to all staff in the Intensive Care Unit, who worked so hard to help her get better and then let her go with dignity, especially Dr. Klaussen, Dr. Hebb and her nurses, Wayne, Crystal, and Andrew, along with administration staff member, Dorothy, who made this journey much more bearable.  

In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Ally Centre of Cape Breton, who always go above and beyond for everyone, regardless of social status or condition.

“So I thought: What’s the good
Of galloping about doing good
When angels stand in the path
And do not do as they should
Such as having an arm to be bitten off
All the same I
Intend to go on being
A cat that likes to
Gallop about doing good…” 

“Ashie’s moon was a crescent moon, a place to play and slide. She hid in its crook, in shadows she looked, and into its light she’d hide.” ~a poem written by Ashleen & Colleen D’Orsay, 1999

Cremation has taken place and a celebration of life will be held at a later date due to the restrictions of Covid-19.  

Words of comfort can be sent to the family at www.sydneymemorialchapel.ca or e-mail sydneymemorialchapel@ns.sympatico.ca

 

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